An elephant may be pretty hard to miss but that has not stopped this majestic animal from becoming roadkill along certain highways in Malaysia, such as the Gerik-Jeli Highway in Gerik, Perak.
In June 2017, the carcass of a two-year-old elephant was found beside the highway, a victim of a collision with a car driven by a teacher who had panicked upon seeing a herd of the animals.
About two months later, a 10-year-old bull died after it was struck by a bus on the same stretch of the Gerik-Jeli Highway.
Early in January last year, a female elephant died in the same area, believed to have been electrocuted by a live wire close to the Seri Banding army camp.
Reports of such incidents as well as those of animal encroachment are on the rise as the wildlife in Malaysia contend with humans for space – and food.
Poaching isn’t the only danger Malaysian wildlife faces. (See story on how poaching is driving animals into extinction here.)
Sometimes, it’s not just the animals that come to harm; there are reports of people being injured by rampaging wildlife – three deaths from snake bites and one from being attacked by wild boar last year – as well as the hundreds of thousands in damage to property and farms.
“In fact, in the past five years alone, we have over 3,000 animals killed by cars, including bigger species such as elephants and tapirs as well as the smallest, like snakes,” he says.
It is no surprise then that Selangor – one of the states with the highest density of population and housing and industrial development – recorded the highest number of cases of human space being overrun by wildlife, ranging from the long-tailed macaques to wild boars.
In 2018, out of the 7,925 cases reported to Perhilitan, 1,734 took place in Selangor, followed by Johor (1,016). Perlis has the lowest number of cases at 88.
Long-tailed macaques – the bane of many housing estates – prove to be the most menacing, responsible for over half of the cases at 4,805, followed by wild boars (1,274), the Asian palm civet (456) and elephants (448).
At the same time, based on Perhilitan’s statistics, a total of 2,444 wild animals became roadkill from 2012 to 2017, with monitor lizards having the highest fatalities at 764, followed by civet cats (446), monkeys (439), wild boars (265), snakes (147) and wild cats (88).
Threatened wildlife species that have been killed on roads are tapirs (69), sun bears (six), elephants (four), mountain goats (two), leopards (two) and tiger (one).
Describing wildlife roadkill in Peninsula Malaysia as serious – especially during the exodus of cars in festive and school holiday seasons – Abdul Kadir says the department is working with the traffic and navigation app Waze to mitigate the problem.
“The app will warn drivers each time they enter a wildlife area to slow down their vehicles,” he says.
This is in addition to building viaducts – safe crossings – for wildlife at strategic highways.
As of 2017, Perhilitan had installed 236 warning signs for motorists at 133 roadkill hotspots.